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Dictionary of legal terms - E
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[Home][Index - Dictionary][Dictionary of legal terms - E]

UK Law Dictionary - English Legal System

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A right of passage over a neighbour's land or waterway. An easement is a type of servitude. For every easement, there is a dominant and a servient tenement. Easements are also classified as negative (which prevents the servient land owner from doing certain things) or affirmative easements (the most common, which allows the beneficiary of the easement to do certain things, such as a right-of-way). Although right-of-ways are the most common easements, there are many others such as rights to tunnel under another's land, to use a washroom, to emit smoke or fumes, to pass over with transmission towers, to access a dock and to access a well.

EC Treaty


The original EEC Treaty was signed in Rome in 1957 bringing into existence the European Economic Community. The original six member states were France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. In 1992 the Maastricht Treaty amended the EEC Treaty and renamed it the EC Treaty. The Treaty was further amended in 1997 by the Amsterdam Treaty, which renumbered most of the provisions of the original Treaty, and in 2000 by the Nice Treaty.

Ecclesiastical law 


Synonymous to canon law: the body of church made law which binds only those persons which recognise it, usually only church officers, and based on aged precepts of canon law

Either-way cases


Offences that can be tried either in the magistrates’ court or the Crown Court (e.g. theft and possession of drugs).

Ejusdem generis


[Latin: Of the same kind or nature]  A rule of statutory interpretation that where particular words are followed by general words, the general words are limited to the same kind as the particular worlds.

Thus where the Sunday Observance Act 1677 provided that "no tradesman, artificer, workman, labourer or other person whatsoever shall do or exercise any worldly labour business or work of their ordinary callings upon the Lord's Day..." the words "or other persons whatsoever" were to be construed ejusdem generis with those words which proceeded them so  that an estate agent was not within the exception (Gregorry v Fearn [1953])



1. Term used to describe the act of freeing a person who was under the legal authority of another (such as a child before the age of majority) from that control.
2. To free from bondage, oppression, or restraint; liberate.  So, the term was also used when slavery was legal to describe a former slave that had bought or been given freedom from his or her master. When
Abraham Lincoln outlawed slavery he did so in a law called the "emancipation proclamation". 



This is an act of international military aggression where an order is made prohibiting ships or goods from leaving a certain port, city or territory and may be enforced by military threat of destroying any vehicle that attempts to break it or by trade penalties. The word has also come to refer to a legal prohibition of trade with a certain nation or a prohibition towards the use of goods or services produced by or within a certain nation.



The illegal transfer of money or property that, although possessed legally by the embezzler, is diverted to the embezzler personally by his or her fraudulent action. For example, an employee would embezzle money from the employer or a public officer could embezzle money received during the course of their public duties and secretly convert it to their personal use.  Fraud of this kind is dealt with under the Theft Acts 1968/78/96 



A legal word which refers to all wages, benefits or other benefit received as compensation for holding some office or employment. 



Civil law: a long term (many years or in perpetuity) rental of land or buildings including the exclusive enjoyment of all product of that land and the exercise of all property rights typically reserved for the property owner such as mortgaging the property for the term of the emphyteusis or permitting a right of way. 

Emptio or emtio 


[Latin:  "purchase" or the contract in which something is bought].



A law or a statute; a document which is published as an enforceable set of written rules is said to be "enacted". 

Endorsement or Indorsement 


Something written on the back of a document.  In the laws of bills of exchange, an endorsement is a signature on the back of the bill of exchange by which the person to whom the note is payable transfers it by thus making the note payable to the bearer or to a specific person. An endorsement of claim means that if you want to ask a court to issue a writ against someone, you have to "indorse" your writ with a concise summary of the facts supporting the claim, sometimes called a statement of claim. 



1.  The transfer of money or property (usually as a gift) to a public organization for a specific purpose, such as medical research or scholarships.  2.  A type of life policy sometimes linked to a mortgage, it pays out a sum on maturity.



To prepare a final copy of a deed or contract with all the formal clauses included, prior to its execution (i.e. signing) by the parties.



An entailed interest is an interest in property that is granted to a person and, following that person’s death, to a specified class of his or her lineal descendants until such line dies out, for example, a gift to A and the female heirs of his body. Since 1 January 1997, no new entails can be created.



The inducement, by law enforcement officers or their agents, of another person to commit a crime for the purposes of bringing charges for the commission of that artificially provoked crime. This technique, because it involves abetting the commission of a crime, which is itself a crime, is severely curtailed under the constitutional law of many states.  Strictly speaking it is not a plea available in UK courts, where 'agent provocateur' is the equivalent. 

En ventre sa mère 


The phrase en ventre sa mère refers to a child in gestation and means “an unborn child inside the mother’s womb”.



(From Latin æquitas: "even" or "fair.").  A branch of English law which developed when litigants would go to the King and complain of harsh or inflexible rules of common law which prevented "justice" from prevailing. For example, strict common law rules would not recognise unjust enrichment, which was a legal relief developed by the equity courts. The typical Court of Equity judgment was based on conscience and would prevent a person from enforcing an unfair common law court judgment. The kings delegated this special judicial review power over common law court rulings to their chancellors, with their decisions eventually gaining precedence over those of the common law courts. A whole set of principles were developed based on the predominant "fairness" characteristic of equity such as "equity will not suffer a wrong to be without a remedy" or "he who comes to equity must come with clean hands". Many legal rules in countries that originated with English law have equity based law such as the law of trusts and mortgages. 'Equity's darling' is the equity of redemption. 

'Equity' became an early organized system of rules, not less definite and rigid than those of 'law'. Equity courts required written submissions (pleadings) and written evidence.  Nowadays, where equity and law conflict equity prevails.



Where property is returned to the government upon the death of the owner, because there is nobody to inherit the property. Escheat is based on the Latin principle of dominion directum as was often used in the feudal system when a tenant died without heirs or if the tenant was convicted of a felony



When the performance of something is outstanding and a third party holds onto money or a written document (such as shares or a deed) until a certain condition is met between the two contracting parties. 



This is everything a person owns when they die.



A rule of law that when person A, by act or words, gives person B reason to believe a certain set of facts upon which person B takes action, person A cannot later, to his (or her) benefit, deny those facts or say that his (or her) earlier act was improper. A 1891 English court decision summarised estoppel as "a rule of evidence which precludes a person from denying the truth of some statement previously made by himself". 



The putting to death, by painless method, of a terminally ill or severely debilitated person through the omission (intentionally withholding a life-saving medical procedure, also known as "passive euthanasia") or commission of an act ("active euthanasia'). See also living will.  Euthanasia is murder.



Proof of fact(s) presented at a trial. The best and most common method is by oral testimony; where you have an eye-witness swear to tell the truth and to then relate to the court (or jury) their experience. Evidence is essential in convincing the judge or jury of your facts as the judge (or jury) is expected to start off with a blank slate; no preconceived idea or knowledge of the facts. So it is up to the opposing parties to prove (by providing evidence), to the satisfaction of the court (or jury), the facts needed to support their case. Besides oral testimony, an object can be deposited with the court (e.g.. a signed contract). This is sometimes called "real evidence." In other, evidence can be circumstantial.  The rules of evidence are strict in criminal cases, but much less so in civil actions.

Evidence in chief 


"(and see 'cross-examination') The evidence given by a witness for the party who called him." (Civil Justice Rules) 

Evidential burden of proof


Generally speaking the prosecution is required to prove each element of the offence charged, however there are exceptions, normally statutory.


Once D has raised an issue - the "evidential" burden - it might then fall on him to prove a fact, the "legal" burden.


Failure to convince the jury or the magistrates of a defence will mean the defendant will be found guilty.  It is usually a “do or die” situation, because D will have probably admitted all the other ingredients of the offence, and be relying solely on the defence he raises, so the legal burden is described as a high standard.


The evidential burden is a lower standard than the legal burden.


The evidential burden might include the burden on a defendant to raise the issue of, say provocation or self defence, in this case, having simply raised the question the burden may shift back to the crown to disprove it, beyond reasonable doubt. 


The standard the defendant has to reach is on the balance of probabilities.


Many strict liability offences include a "due diligence" defence, the onus of proving which invariably lies on the defendant.


The legal burden, and the evidential burden are examples of reverse burden provisions.


One reason for upholding a reverse burden is where it is easier for the defendant to prove a matter because "the facts are within the defendant's own knowledge", this is not universally accepted as true.


See legal burden of proof.

Ex aequo et bono 


[Latin: according to what is just and good]. A rule that prevents one person being unjustifiably enriched at the expense of another. Illustrations of this doctrine are familiar in cases of money paid by accident, or mistake, or fraud and so ought to be paid back.

A quasi-legislative exercise in which, typically, a tribunal tailors the outcome to the equities involved, instead of strictly applying rules of law, thereby overriding the strict rule of law.


In Moses v Macferlan (1760) Lord Mansfield  said that an action lies only "for money which ex aequo et bono the defendant ought to refund." But the wide language he used has not always been followed.




The principle does not have general application, it is found mostly in arbitration and tribunal cases.


The Arbitration Act 1996 s 46(1)(b) recognises that parties may agree that their dispute should be settled in accordance with general principles of fairness. Such agreements are often referred to as ‘equity clauses’, arbitration ‘ex aequo et bono’ or ‘amiable composition’. The agreements effectively exclude rights of appeal to the court, because there is no question of law to appeal.

The International Court of Justice has power, if authorised to do so by the parties, to decide a case ex aequo et bono although it is thought that this has never been done.

ex ante


Based on prior assumptions or expectations; predicted, prospective.

Ex turpi causa non oritur actio


[Latin] No cause of action may be founded upon an immoral or illegal act.



The questioning of your own witness under oath. Witnesses are introduced to a trial by their examination-in-chief, which is when they answer questions asked by the lawyer representing the party which called them to the stand. After their examination-in-chief, the other party's lawyer can question them too; this is called "cross-examination". 



Something that excuses or justifies a wrong action. 



A person specifically appointed by a testator to administer the will ensuring that final wishes are respected (i.e. that the will is properly "executed"). An executor is a personal representative.   A female is an executrix. 



A document or object shown to the court as evidence in a trial. They are each given a number or letter by the court clerk as they are introduced for future reference during the trial. For example, weapon are frequently given as exhibits in criminal trials. Except with special permission of the court, exhibits are locked up in court custody until the trial is over. 

Ex parte 


[Latin: for one party only]  Ex parte refers to an application in judicial proceedings


a) where one of the parties has not received notice and, therefore, is neither present nor represented.


b) by an interested party who is not a party.

Ex patriate 


A person who has abandoned his or her country of origin and citizenship and has become a subject or citizen of another country. 

Ex post facto 


[Latin: after the fact] Legislation is called ex post facto if the law attempts to extend backwards in time and punish acts committed before the date of the law's approval. Such laws are constitutionally prohibited in most modern democracies. For example, the USA Constitution prohibits "any ex post facto law".   The only modern example of such law in the UK is the War Crimes Act 1991 

Ex tempore


A judgment delivered 'off the cuff' at the conclusion of counsel's argument.


Compare 'reserved judgment'.

expressio unius est exclusio alterius


[Latin: Expressing one thing excludes another]


One of the linguistic canons applicable to the construction of legislation.  By expressing one thing is [by implication] to exclude another. There is no room for the application of this principle where some reason other than the intention to exclude certain items exists for the express mention in question. Thus what is said may be intended merely as an example or be included for abundance of caution or for some other reason; or the thing supposed to have been impliedly excluded may not have existed at the passing of the enactment.


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